You Will Burn in Hell
by Archer Voxx
For the purpose of this article, let’s use a metaphor for our thinking process. The metaphor is that our brain is like a computer’s CPU and that it has an operating system. That operating system is running several important software applications (apps) in the background that provide us with, among other things, our ability to navigate life. An early software application that is installed in you, by parents and other influential parties, provides you the processes and rules you will use to determine if you are a Good Person. I will refer to this as the Good Person software going forward.
The processes and rules can vary significantly, depending on the version of Good Person that your loved ones install in you. Some versions provide a better foundation for a balanced life driven by sound personal values, effective decision-making, and the resulting serenity. On the other end of the spectrum, there are versions of the software that set you off on a life of self doubt, poor self-esteem, and discontent. It is these versions of the software that I believe help contribute to the development of addiction to substances and activities (including codependency) as coping mechanisms. Of course, there are variations on the Good Person software on the continuum between these extremes that I just described.
The initial installation of the Good Person software in you is a very challenging process for parents and loved ones. Historically, one of the popular options has been to use pre-packaged, off-the-shelf software that they acquire from an organized religion store. My parents, who were well-intentioned, loving people, elected to use the pre-packaged software option. The software package they installed came from the Lutheran Store.
Like many of the off-the-shelf models of the Good Person software, the Lutheran package comes with standard judgment and fate modules. The judgment module monitors your Good Person progress and the fate module determines your afterlife dispensation. The judgment module in the Lutheran package comes with an invisible-all-powerful-being who monitors your progress. The fate module implements the final decision of the invisible-entity. The fate option is binary. YES – Good Person – You are sent for eternity to a place with fluffy clouds, happy people, and an endless supply of great action videos. NO – Not A Good Person – You are dispatched to a place filled with bubbling lava and tormented for eternity along with millions of other screaming, sorry-assed, sons-of-bitches. In other words, “You Will Burn in Hell”.
As time passes, observant and rational people will make modifications to their off-the-shelf, “Burn in Hell”, versions of the software to make it fit more with reality. The first major update to the pre-packaged Good Person software usually involves swapping out the invisible-all-knowing-entity-who-keeps-an-eye-on-everyone-at-the-same-time with a new, less metaphysical and more tangible group of judges. This updated panel is called SOCIETY. This judgment panel consists of parents, friends, teachers, business associates, casual acquaintances, the media, and the list goes on. The new panel has some distinct advantages over the invisible-entity because you can see them, interact with them, and get information directly from them. Unfortunately, with this software update, you don’t redefine the role of the new panel. You simply allow the new panel to have the same power as the all-mighty-invisible entity. That is, to monitor your Good Person status and to determine your fate.
Based on your day-to-day interactions with various members of this society-based panel, you try to determine your Good Person status. You look for positive and negative signals from all those you encounter; hoping that you will receive some Good Person vibes and fearing potential negative indicators that suggest you are gradually being relegated to the bottom of the human-being stack. This is the fate that has replaced the eternal-burning-lava-pit in your software update.
With this latest update to the Good Person software, a person now has some world-class, stinking-thinking going on. Why?
First, the new, society-based panel of judges is completely unaware that they have the Good Person review and final judgment responsibilities. Thus, output from the panel members to you is usually just circumstantial and without any “evaluation” of you in mind.
In your interactions with the new panel members, and even though you only perceive that they are performing an assessment of you, you continue to look for signs of positive and negative feedback. Their praise is infrequent, so you begin to view any that you do receive as disingenuous. You don’t hear much in the way of criticism, so you begin to view any criticism directed toward you as being strong signals of losing your Good Person status.
Last, you begin to interpret any silence from the panel as subtle signals that they are withholding opinion, “bad news”, from you and you obsess about the pending report cards.
Bill Wilson, one of the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous, described this unhealthy dependency on others in a brilliant, short article he wrote for the AA Grapevine magazine in 1958. The article was called The Next Frontier – Emotional Sobriety. Paraphrasing from this article, Bill said the following:
I think that many of us who have used the AA program successfully, still find they often lack emotional sobriety. Perhaps this can be the next major development in AA – the development of much more real emotional maturity and balance in our relations with ourselves and our fellows. I realized that my basic flaw has always been dependence – almost absolute dependence – on people or circumstances to supply me with prestige, security, and the like.
Failing to get these things according to my perfectionist dreams and specifications – I fought for them – and when defeat came – so did depression. If we examine every disturbance, big or small, we will find at the root of it some unhealthy dependency and our related unhealthy demands.
This article by Bill Wilson is insightful and motivational for me. As a person in recovery, the real challenge has been maintaining an awareness that I might have an unhealthy dependency on people (the panel), places, and things for my Good Person status.
I have made it part of my recovery mission to understand this aspect of my thinking process and to make changes to ensure that I am moving toward having the improved version of the software installed – the Serenity Model that uses the Emotional Sobriety algorithm. The benefits of making these changes have been significant for me.
My favorite book about emotional sobriety is by Dr. Allen Berger. The book is called 12 Smart Things to Do When the Booze and Drugs Are Gone: Choosing Emotional Sobriety Through Self-Awareness and Right Action.
The Five Keys – 12 Step Recovery Without a God – This short book, previously discussed here on AA Agnostica, provides insight into five key areas of Alcoholics Anonymous that are rarely discussed. Armed with this information, a person with a secular background can work the program without a Judeo/Christian-based higher power, without a God.
Alcoholics Anonymous Universal Edition – The Universal Edition consists of key chapters of Alcoholics Anonymous (“The Big Book”) that have been revised and modified to remove the “religious” content; while leaving the other original content intact.
Both of the books are outstanding and important resources for agnostics, atheists and freethinkers in recovery.